From being one of the first African American girls to integrate her school system, to being the first openly LGBTQ+ member of the Nevada State Senate, she understands that HER-STORY is made by taking a step forward.
I was born in the Midwest, the middle child in a blended family of four brothers and nine sisters. Growing up, I remember first loves, warm summer mornings, and wishing for so many dreams to come true. A lot of them have. I have God, my parents, and grandmother to thank for so much of it and so much of who I am. My tenacity comes from my Mom, fearlessness from my Dad, and the pursuit of excellence from my Grandmother. Although life was not easy, all of the time, I would do it all over again because the tough experiences keep me grounded regardless of my professional status.
My parents originally met when they were singing with the Wings Over Jordan, Negro Chorale. They traveled all over the country, singing in exceptionally large venues. Although most of their performance were sold out, Negros, at that time could not go through the front door of the venues so they always entered through the back. The black families, living in the towns where they performed, housed them because they were not allowed to stay in the hotels or eat in any of the restaurants. The members needed to make sure they ate enough to keep them going between venues and not to drink too much so they did not have to go to the bathroom on the road.
My mother was a professional singer, business school graduate, and worked as an Executive Secretary until she remarried, accepted her all into ministry, and became a traveling evangelist. My dad was a veteran, Tuskegee graduate, and professional electrician. They divorced early in my life and both eventually remarried. Life was not always easy, but I never doubted that my parents loved me, supported me, and wanted the absolute best for me.
My faith comes from my Mom’s spiritual discipline and willingness to endure hardship for what she believed and taught me how to remain committed to causes I believe in, regardless of personal sacrifice. My mother was steadfast in her spiritual beliefs and challenged the religious patriarchal system designed to hold women back. Every time she preached a sermon was purposeful defiance of religious systems of her time.
My passionate advocacy for the rights of others come from my Dad. He lost his job trying to organize union membership in a non-union workplace. His willingness to put his job on the line to get a collective bargaining agreement for the plant workers continued to energize me in the fight for a livable wage and workers’ rights. He did not allow that situation to define him. After losing his job, my Dad and three of his friends formed a contracting company to design and renovate residential and commercial properties.
My commitment to excellence despite sexism, racism, and homophobia comes from my Grandmother. She was born in the 1880’s a little more than two decades after the civil war ended. She always spoke about the hardships she endured as a first generation “free born” Negro as “The Reconstruction Era” was ending. Her experiences with voting poll taxes, subordination as a woman, living with physical threats, and other obstacles designed to hold her back, did not diminish her dreams. Although educational pursuits were challenging, earned a bachelor’s degree in Education, a master’s degree, in English, from Columbia University, spoke Spanish, German and Latin fluently, and at the time of her death in 1974 she was working on a PhD focused on nutrition with an emphasis on cholesterol, fatty foods and their effect on the heart.